11 Jul Using a continuum of practice framework to envision and build domestic violence informed child welfare systems
David Mandel introduced the Domestic Violence-Informed Continuum of Practice framework at our 2013 New Orleans National Safe & Together ™ Model Symposium. This new framework describes the progress systems make moving from “domestic violence destructive” to “domestic violence proficient” practice. The continuum is inspired by earlier work on cultural competence and trauma informed systems. This continuum applies the Safe & Together Model to help child welfare systems and their communities envision meaningful, systemic change focusing on child safety and well-being. Partnering with adult domestic violence survivors and intervening with perpetrators using a perpetrator pattern-based approach to domestic violence case practice is the main focus.
The Domestic Violence-Informed Continuum of Practice
The Domestic Violence-Informed Continuum of Practice identifies six stages for child welfare systems. The framework’s purpose is to provide a method of self-evaluation. In addition, it provides a road map for change.
Six Stages of the Continuum of Practice
The six stages are:
Domestic Violence Destructive Practice
In this stage, the system follows policies and practices that actively increase the harm to adult and child survivors of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Incompetent Practice
In this stage, the system does not use policies and practices to actively increase harm to survivors. However, the system lacks the capacity to effectively help adult and child survivors of domestic violence. They also lack the capacity to effectively intervene with the perpetrator.
Domestic Violence Blind Practice
In this stage, professionals and systems identify domestic violence as an issue that impacts children. However, they haven’t really committed to making changes that facilitate consistent, sustainable, informed practice. The system still treats domestic violence cases in the same way it treats other cases. There are no specialized policy, practices or services. Professionals still engage in victim blaming language and practice. There are few structures to intervene with the perpetrator.
Domestic Violence Pre Competent Practice
Professionals’ understanding of domestic violence increases at this stage. The system states a commitment to improve responsiveness to the issue by being more supportive to adult survivors. The system is beginning to attempt changes to practice but these changes aren’t fully supported.
Systems are still relying on outsiders for the motivation and commitment to improve practice. For example, outsiders might be encouraging, expecting or demanding better practice. These expectations are usually focused on professionals preventing re-victimization. But, it often fails to address intervention with perpetrators.
Domestic violence is identified as a genuine issue at this stage. However, the issue is not fully a part of the system’s DNA. There are still lots of disconnects. For example, systems might claim that domestic violence is one of their top three issues. However, there is no policy and service infrastructure set up to respond to families experiencing domestic violence.
The connection between domestic violence and children is still not fully understood. This stage presents the danger of token change.
Domestic Violence Competent Practice
In this stage, domestic violence is not perceived as an add-on issue. It is seen as a core part of child welfare practice. The child welfare system has internalized its commitment to domestic violence best practice.
The relevance of domestic violence and connection to other issues (e.g., substance abuse and mental health) is clear and integrated in assessment and treatment.
There is a specific commitment to partnering with adult survivors and intervening with perpetrators to enhance child safety, permanency and well-being.
Assessment, at this stage, is culturally and linguistically competent. This means it is behaviorally focused. It allows for appropriate assessment in both heterosexual and same sex relationships. The system approaches assessment through a coercive control lens. This lens differentiates between defensive violence and on-going patterns that are harmful to children and family functioning.
Perpetrators and survivors are not lumped together as a unit.
There is a strong relationship with domestic violence victim service providers. Programming for children exposed to perpetrators’ behavior supports the relationship between the survivor and the child. It also considers the relationship between the child and the perpetrator.
Improved practice is more prevalent, but isn’t consistent. Some areas of the agency are better at domestic violence informed practice than others.
Domestic Violence Proficient Practice
Domestic violence-informed practice is consistent, dependable and pervasive.
Child welfare has a strong commitment to develop and maintain (institutionalize) domestic violence skills and practice system-wide.
They have built domestic violence in to their organizational performance improvement plan or other quality assurance efforts.
Child welfare regularly accesses expertise in the community. It takes a leadership role in developing community capacity. They may do this through training others they contract with.
This level is characterized by the entire system using the same framework. This is evidenced by the system sharing a focus on keeping children safe and together with the non-offending parent. They do this through partnering with the survivor and intervening with perpetrators.
The Continuum of Practice Applies to all Partners in the Child Welfare System
These categories are intended to describe the entire child welfare system’s response to domestic violence. It doesn’t just apply to state and county child welfare agencies. It also applies to community providers who provide services to families involved with child welfare. This includes the courts and related professionals such Guardians ad Litem and even law enforcement.
The framework is integrative as it addresses the intersection of domestic violence with substance abuse, mental health, and other common child welfare issues. It also addresses intersectionalities with racism, the marginalization of fathers in our systems and other issues.
The Continuum is Multidimensional
The framework is multi-dimensional. It addresses policy and practice, leadership and frontline social work practice, service delivery and cross-system collaboration.
Agencies and communities may fit into more than one category depending on how far along they are in their process of becoming a domestic violence-informed.
For example, a system that is in pre-competence or even competence is likely to still have some aspects of their practice, policy and services fall somewhere in the destructiveness to blindness range.
The Safe & Together model is designed to help child welfare agencies and communities wherever they are on the continuum. The goal is to move through the stages until they reach proficiency. Each category in the continuum is associated with a stage of implementation of the Safe & Together model principles and critical components.
David Mandel, MA, LPC
Learn more about the Safe & Together Institute HERE.
Take our Introduction to the Safe & Together Model e-course for more on the continuum.